House Passes Bill to Ensure Breastfeeding Rights for More Working Moms

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. October 29, 2021
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The U.S. Capitol

​The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 276-149 on Oct. 22. If approved by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill would expand protections for nursing mothers to nearly 9 million employees not currently covered by existing law. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Additional Employees Would Be Protected

The bill would build upon a 2010 health care law provision requiring employers to allow reasonable break time and to provide private space other than a bathroom for nursing employees to pump breast milk. The 2010 law does not apply to workers who are exempt from overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But some of these workers have been protected by state laws. Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have introduced companion legislation to the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, but their version has not yet reached the Senate floor.

(The Hill)

Who Would Be Covered by the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act?

"Farmworkers, transportation workers and teachers are currently excluded from federal protections for nursing employees," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. He said that the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would fix that. The bill guarantees all women break time and a clean space to nurse at work. "These basic accommodations ensure that nursing mothers can balance their work, their health and the health of their babies," Scott said.

(WGNO ABC)

Additional Remedies

In addition to eliminating exemptions for certain employees, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would let workers seek back pay and reinstatement if they are fired for requesting breaks to pump milk. The bill also would require employers to pay workers for the time spent on those breaks if the employees are not completely relieved of their job duties during the breaks.

(Reuters)

Bill Criticized

Although 59 Republican representatives and all of the Democratic representatives voted for the bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said, "This bill is a flawed scheme and expansive mandate." She predicted it would "do more harm than good," saying the bill would burden small businesses. "We must not saddle businesses with rigid policies that will open them up to legal action," she said.

(NewsNation) and (Reuters)

State Law Requirements

More than half of the states have laws specifically addressing lactation accommodations in the workplace. "Like any laws that develop through a patchwork of state or local laws, each particular law will have its own peculiarities," said Melissa Osipoff Camire, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in New York City.

For example, a state law may:

  • Require lactation accommodations for employees who are not covered by federal law.
  • Provide for paid break time.
  • Extend the time during which an employee is permitted to take lactation breaks beyond one year following the birth of a child.
  • Provide specific requirements about the space made available for employees to express breast milk.
  • Prohibit discrimination against employees who express breast milk in the workplace.

(SHRM Online)

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